Throughout much of the year, public access to the L.A. River is somewhat limited to bike paths and pedestrian walkways. But, during the summer months, the Mountains Recreation & Conservancy Authority in cooperation with the US Army Corps of Engineers, the L.A. County Floor Control District and the City of Los Angeles, opens it up for fishing, and for use of kayaks or non-motorized boats like paddle boats.
For individual users, use of the river is free. Organized groups must obtain a permit from the MRCA, for which there is a fee. Fees for groups and other information can be found here.
The two recreational areas open to the public are areas of the river where it has a soft bottom and natural habitat and wildlife flourishes.
While much of the River is just a steady stream that has been controlled by concrete walls, there are two recreational areas that are safe for public use in the summer months. One, in the city is near Elysian Park, while the other is in the San Fernando Valley and runs through the Sepulveda Basin.
Select a link below to see the areas on the map with markers of important details:
Access to the Elysian Valley River Recreation Zone is at MRCA-managed Rattlesnake Park at Fletcher Drive north of Riverside Drive
Parking: There is four-hour parking on Fletcher Drive on the City street. Additionally, you can find free public parking at MRCA-managed Marsh Park which offers direct access to the river bike path. Parking is also available downstream adjacent to Confluence Park under the 2 freeway at Home Depot.
» Elysian Valley L.A. River Map & Guide
The Sepulveda Basin River Recreation Zone extends two miles from approximately Balboa Boulevard in the Sepulveda basin (south of Victory Boulevard) to just west of Woodley Avenue.
Access to the the Sepulveda Basin Recreation Zone is west of Woodley
Avenue on Burbank Boulevard – The approximate address is 16212 Burbank Boulevard, Encino, CA 91436. Access is also allowed at Balboa Boulevard north of Victory Boulevard. The exit point is just west of Woodley Avenue.
Parking: There is plenty of street parking north of Burbank Boulevard on Woodley Avenue. There is also a parking lot next to the put-in area on Balboa Boulevard.
» Sepulveda Basin L.A. River Map & Guide
The Elysian Valley River Recreation Zone is in the Glendale Narrows, which is the only section of the river that is channelized and offers a non-concrete bottom. You’ll find plenty of shrubbery, trees, and grass because of this on the sides of the river and in the middle of the river. Fishing is allowed on the banks, and five feet up from the slope of the channel or from a boat. The river is relatively fast moving and offers Class I and II rapids. No rafts are allowed – only non-motorized, steerable boats are permitted, like kayaks or canoes.
Sitting near Lake Balboa in the San Fernando Valley, the Sepulveda Basin zone is within a larger wildlife refuge and flood controlled area. You’ll find calmer waters here and trees along the banks of the river. It’s a beautiful and calm stretch of river to go kayaking.
Currently, the rules permit that you can only launch your kayak from Rattlesake Park in the Elysian Valley zone because of the stronger currents.
Offering calmer currents, at the Sepulveda Basin zone, you can enter and exit the river from launch areas situated underneath Burbank and Balboa boulevards.
There are a few operators that offer kayak rentals and guided tours as well if you don’t have your own kayak!